Musicians, Protect Your Ears

I didn’t — and now I have the tinnitus to show for it

Clive Thompson
8 min readSep 22, 2023

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A photo of the members of the band Lipstick Driver: On the left, a woman playing the drums; in the middle, a woman playing the bass; on the right, the author playing an electric guitar
This is my current band, which is EXTREMELY LOUD and has given me tinnitus, egad. Oh hey, if you’re in NYC we’re playing Rockwood Music Hall Sept. 28 2023, 10 pm!

It was last summer — June of 2022 — when I first heard the high-pitched ringing.

I was lying in bed, trying to sleep. I’d spent about half an hour reading a book to chill myself out, and I could feel myself drifting off, when I realized: Huh. Where’s that sound coming from?

It was a soft, high-up whine. I wondered for a second if it were some malfunction in a nearby fan or air conditioner, or even a car on the Brooklyn street outside.

But nope: The call was coming from inside the house. I pretty quickly realized it was the internal squeal of tinnitus — one’s ear generating noise that only you can hear.

At first, I shrugged, figuring it was one of those temporary noises that can suddenly arise in one’s ears, seemingly unprovoked, and which quickly subsides.

But this one didn’t go away. As I lay there, it kept on whining, like a synthesizer stuck on a single note. I eventually fell asleep, figuring whatever was wrong with my ear would fix itself overnight.

It didn’t. In the morning the high-pitched whine was still there, and I was figuring that I had probably given myself a case of tinnitus.

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Clive Thompson

I write 2X a week on tech, science, culture — and how those collide. Writer at NYT mag/Wired; author, “Coders”. @clive@saturation.social clive@clivethompson.net